Extreme Makeover for Hamburg's Hotel Atlantic

Hamburg’s venerable Hotel Atlantic Kempinski gets a major makeover By: Janice Mucalov
The historic Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg is undergoing a major renovation. // © 2010 Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg
The historic Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg is undergoing a major renovation. // © 2010 Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg

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The Details

Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg
For more than a century, the sumptuous Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg has been the hotel of choice for royalty and celebrities visiting Hamburg, Germany. Prince Charles, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, the late Shah of Iran and Michael Jackson have all stayed there. The hotel was even featured in the 1997 James Bond film, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” when Pierce Brosnan climbs from the plush Atlantic suite to the globe on the roof after killing his movie nemesis.

But time had taken its toll and, in recent years, the grande dame had been showing its age. Recently, however, Kempinski Hotels embarked on a total restoration of the Hamburg landmark.

Work carried out over the past two years first focused on the Atlantic’s facade. Its ornate white exterior and green roof is now as fresh as it was back in 1909 when the hotel opened as a stopover for first-class passengers sailing to America in luxury ocean liners.

Attention is now being paid to its interior. All rooms, suites and hallways of the historic main building’s four floors will be renovated from the ground up at a cost of about $35 million. Restoration of the first 100 guestrooms is scheduled to be completed by March 2011.

While Kempinski Hotels has recently pursued an aggressive expansion in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, its priority is still the European market where the brand sprung to life.

“We are proud of our European roots, and the German market is of significant importance to Kempinski, in spite of our international expansion,” said Kempinski Hotels CEO Reto Wittwer.

The makeover at the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg is being carried out in a sensitive manner, and the hotel remains open. During our recent stay, we weren’t bothered by any ongoing work; indeed, we didn’t even see any construction workers. Once complete, the property will have 221 completely redesigned guestrooms and 80 suites.

We stayed in a non-renovated but serene high-ceilinged junior suite. Ivory drapes separated the bedroom from a small sitting room with cream leather furniture. However, I was able to inspect two showcase standard rooms, renovated in different styles.

Both are large, at an average of 430 square feet, and reflect a maritime Hanseatic style. I personally preferred the one with a more traditional decor. It boasts impressive high ceilings, a grand polished wood headboard above the king bed, gold-and-white-striped wallpaper, plush royal blue-and-gold drapes and carpets, a gas fireplace and a cylindrical tiled rain shower, where half of the curved wall juts into the bedroom, adding extra visual interest.
The other design feels larger in size, although it does not have highly elevated ceilings. It features a hallway with oak floors leading to an open-concept bathroom and a ruby-red-themed bedroom with more contemporary furniture.

Both room types, however, are outfitted with the latest technology — flat-screen satellite televisions, Internet connectivity, air-conditioning and modern bathrooms. And, the maritime theme is carried throughout in large black-and-white photographs of old ships and nautical scenes. Clients should be satisfied no matter which room type they book.

They will also enjoy the Atlantic’s splendid location, right on the Outer Alster Lake, close to where river barges depart for two-hour sightseeing cruises up the Alster River and narrow canals, fringed by weeping willows and beautiful white mansions. It is also just a short walk to both the city center and main train station. The hotel’s bellboy will even assist clients, free of charge, with their baggage to the station and help them find and board the train.

The hotel’s old-world-style lobby, with its sweeping grand staircase and elegant Atlantic Restaurant, has already been spruced up. In the restaurant, with its rich wood paneling, black gold-trimmed columns and huge arched windows overlooking the Outer Alster, we tried a couple of excellent, dry, first-growth Rieslings from the hotel’s vineyard.

During the ongoing renovation, several specials allow clients to stay in this iconic hotel at a reduced rate. For example, the Atlantic Hanseatic package (priced from approximately $400) includes one night in a non-renovated standard double room, full breakfast, access to the pool and sauna, concierge service, a Hamburg sightseeing tour and a harbor cruise. 
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